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Montana judge blocks state from using drug in execution

HELENA, Mont. -- A Helena judge has blocked Montana from using a particular drug in executions, saying it does not meet the standard set by state lawmakers.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled Tuesday that the drug pentobarbital is not an "ultra-fast acting barbiturate" as required by state law for lethal injections.

Sherlock says in his decision that medical evidence shows only three barbiturates can be classified as "ultra-fast acting," and pentobarbital is not one of them.

Montana's lethal injection law calls for use of an ultra-fast acting barbiturate and a paralytic agent. The state's execution protocol lists sodium pentothal as the barbiturate, with pentobarbital as a substitute.

Sodium pentothal is no longer available for use in executions in the U.S.

Department of Justice spokesman John Barnes says state attorneys are reviewing Sherlock's decision.

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